Set yourself up for weight loss success with these techniques.
Setting the Right Environment
Assert Your Plans Publicly
If your friends, family, and coworkers don’t know you’re dieting, they can’t help you meet your goals by offering diet-friendly options or refraining from inviting you out to the bar and/or all-you-can-eat buffets. It’s important to firmly announce your intentions so that you’re held accountable. There are all sorts of ways your friends and family can throw off your diet, but announcing your goal is the first step in the right direction.
De-junk Your House
If you’re on a diet and processed junk food is around, at some point you’re going to eat it. Throw it out, give it away, or work it into the first few weeks of your diet so that you eat it under control. Given that option three is almost impossible to do, just stick to the first two.
Stock Your Main Foods
Keeping a kitchen full of diet-friendly foods is the best way to prevent an impulse trip for Chinese food or pizza. Buy bulk bags of frozen fruits and vegetables so they’re always available. Additionally, try to buy both fresh and frozen meats ahead of time. A pack of fresh chicken breasts can keep you going during the week without needing time for thawing, while lean protein-packed frozen burgers can be used in a pinch and take only minutes to cook.
Fruits are the classic alternative to typical candies and desserts, though there are substitutes for just about every food. Crave spaghetti? Mix a small portion of whole-wheat pasta (or even squash) with a pile of sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and onion. Sugar substitutes and whole grains take the heft out of cakes and cookies, and oven-baked foods retain a lot of the flavor of frying. Stock-up on spices and light sauces to keep things interesting. Hot sauces, fresh ground pepper, and all types of garlic are flavor staples that can make even a baked tennis shoe taste better.
Prepare Meals in Advance
It’s easier to cook big a few times a week than it is to cook small every night. Baking five pounds of chicken at the beginning of the week and portioning it out as needed is a great tip. You can season it a different way with every meal, or use it as a pre-cooked ingredient for stir fries, pastas, wraps, sandwiches, and salads. It’s also best to prepare your lunches the night before, so you aren’t tempted to skip lunch prep in the morning and go for fast food in the afternoon.
Negate Bad Situations
When challenged with a mandatory meal that’ll throw-off your cheat-meal schedule, minimize the damage in advance. If it’s a restaurant trip, find the menu and nutritional information online and plan your meal from home. If you’re worried about your appetite getting hard to control, down a protein shake before eating to keep your stomach fuller. Finally, when you’re in a no-win situation like Thanksgiving, fill your plate with high-protein baked turkey and leave everything else to the side.
Measuring Your Progress
The best tool for measuring progress is the scale. Check your weight on a weekly basis, remembering that after your first week of dieting your target should be about a pound of weight loss every week. A weekly weigh-in is frequent enough to signal when changes are needed, but not so frequent that you lose track of the big picture because of daily fluctuations. Make sure you weigh in on the same day every week and that you keep your cheat meals or refeeds on the same day every week so that your glycogen and water retention is fairly static over the course of your weight loss program. It’s also important to weigh in under the same conditions. If you weigh yourself naked before your morning shower for five weeks, and then on week six weigh yourself in work clothes after a few meals, you could throw your measurement off by several pounds.
If you’re new to training or have stayed out of the gym, you may find that for a few weeks you put on a little muscle while losing weight. Here, the scale won’t be as accurate in determining weight loss, so you need to keep an eye on how your clothes fit. If the scale isn’t moving, but you’re more muscular and your clothes are looser around the waist, chest, and hips, don’t worry you’re doing just fine!
Finally, monitor your strength with a workout log or a journal to make sure you aren’t losing muscle. Losing fat will usually weaken presses and squats, so track lifts that aren’t aided by your bodyweight like deadlifts and pull-ups. Deadlifts should drop only slightly when you cut body fat, while pull-ups will actually improve. If your performance in either of these lifts worsens, make sure you’re meeting your protein target, your calorie intake is reasonable, and that you aren’t pushing too hard in the gym.
While the major weight and fat loss factors and approaches like those found above are the most important, there are many other details that’ll help you maximize your progress. We’ll look at those in Part 4.